Tag Archives: neighbors

Deb’s 2017, by the numbers…



Another trip around the sun, and seven trips since I moved to North Carolina.  It seems impossible, and the years have flown.

So, by the numbers, this is my story for 2017, and not in chronological order:

Number of weeks spent in Wisconsin with my Remley family…. six.

Number of visits to long-time, dear friends, here in North Carolina…three.

Number of talks with all sisters…too many to count.

Number of pizza nights at my NC brother’s…also too many to count.

Number of overseas trips made by me…one.

Number of countries visited on above trip…four.

Number of blessings gained from above trip…still counting.

Number of visitors to my Winston-Salem home, including parents, Atlanta brother and family, former principal and friend, Australian “nephew,” Lake Sister and two mutual friends, my two WI  sisters, niece, grand-nephew, Arizona BFF and her spouse…a bunch.

Number of meaningful connections with Arizona family, former students and their parents, teaching friends, and more…lots.

Number of Flat Stanleys to travel across country and hang out…one.

Number of books read and discussed with Book Club and others…not sure.

Number of dinners with neighbors…same.Number of Canasta games played…probably eight.

Number of GOOD Canasta hands played…one.

Number of opportunities to serve others…numerous times daily.

Number of prayers requested, prayers answered, thanks given…countless. 

I wish all of you the infinite blessings of this Christmas season and the same in the New Year to come.  And so, Amen.


Being Lucky…


Four years ago, I wrote a post called “Adult (or almost) students, a teacher’s gift.’  In that blog, I wrote about the joy of connecting with my former students, and discovering the wonderful human beings they have grown to be, as if there were doubts!  Say what you will, but if it weren’t for Facebook, I would not have the contact.  It’s a gift.

Recently, I received another “gift” from a former student.  I taught Logan Sparks in first grade, the class of 1982-83.  It was a darling class, and I could probably tell you a story about each one of those kids in that class.  We had some interesting adventures, including Paddington Bear coming to visit us, and the day of the field trip, when the bus forgot us, and instead of going out in the world in excitement, we were left at school (with no lesson plans), to make the best of it, and we did.

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Back to my “gift.”  Logan co-wrote a screenplay for Harry Dean Stanton, who just passed away last week.  AND, Logan named one of the characters in the movie after ME!  This afternoon, I saw his movie, Lucky.  My bestest neighbor friends went with me, and I had a “past-meets-the-present” moment.  Nearly seven years ago, when I first came to Winston-Salem, I knew only 8 people, and 4 of them were under the age of 11.  Today, I was mentioned in an anecdote in the newspaper, and I saw the movie with 10 of my neighbors and friends, who came along to share the experience with me.   (There were other people in the audience, too, by the way.)

I saw a film that was funny-in-places, thought provoking and poignant, written by one of my long-ago first graders, who gave me “Special Thanks” in the credits of his movie.  It was a quirky, heart-wrenching tribute to Mr. Stanton and quite good.  Some of us wept.


So, 35 years isn’t too long to wait for such a gift, now, is it?  As my friend told the audience, before the movie began, “if you love the Arts, thank a teacher.”  I know Logan had a lot of good teachers.  We were all truly thanked.

On Book Clubs…


I have a wonderful book club now, and I’ve been a member of three other book clubs previously.  The best one is now, and the worst one is the one I joined right after I moved here. 

The funniest one lasted one afternoon, and was a conversation about books read in which none of us could remember the books’ titles, the authors, and the plots.  I wrote a blog on that one called “The Bad Memory Book Club.”  You can go back and read that for a laugh, if you want.

The worst one was a group of people who met at the public library.  Everyone read random books, and then just sort of reported on the book each had read.  The group of people was very nice, and we all got a variety of titles of which we might want to read in the future, but there was no unity, friendship, or refreshments (i.e. wine).

The reason my best book club is the one I am in now, is that…uh…I am in it now.  I loved the retired teachers’ book club that I left back in Arizona.  We’d all taught together for many years.  We had a history and a present.  I am still on their emailing list, and some of them read this blog.  That book club is the prototype for my current one.  Books are chosen for the entire year, assigned a month, a host, and a date, and there you go.


My current book club formed from my neighbor gatherings.  One of the women said, “Let’s have a Book Club!”  If she’s said, “Let’s put on a show, ” we might’ve done that, too, but thank God, it was a book club.  So, we morphed from monthly dinners to monthly book discussions.  Two members moved away, and we absorbed two.  We are a diverse group…ages 40’s to 70’s…married, widowed, and divorced.  All of us live, except one, in the same square mile…well, really less than a square mile.  Some still work, most of us are retired.  All of us are physically and mentally active and compassionate.  All of us practice our own particular crafts, of sorts, in our own way.  Pretty much, all of us enjoy a glass of wine.

We all have a lot to say about the books!  Oh, the books…that is the journey, rather than the destination.


The Dark Before Dawn


I see a lot in the dark before dawn as I walk to Mass this time of year.  I’m not creeping on my neighbors, but eyes are drawn to light, and so it can’t be helped.  Most homes are not lit in any way, but there are a few, and that’s the direction I look.  There are the bluish glowings of a TV, the small obvious bathroom windows that shine, and even some red/green/blue tiny lights one particular home. 

It makes me remember when I was a teenager, sent to the laundromat to wash and dry the family’s clothes.  (Stay with me here.  The memory is connected to the early morning homes I see.)  Anyway, Mom would wait until each of us was in our very, very last clean outfit, and then  I was delivered to the laundromat and left to wait.  I’d notice the other people who were moving their laundry from washer to dryer, or standing at the folding tables.  I’d see what they were folding and try to imagine how many people of what ages belonged to them.  I’d make up stories in my head about my imaginings to pass the time.

I know most of my neighbors, so I don’t have to imagine much about their family situation from their early morning lights, but I do think about their early morning habits.  If anyone were to see into my home before I leave, they’d see dim lamplight and my salt lamp glowing through the pulled blinds my living room.  In my kitchen window, they’d see my pendant light with the Edison bulb (no blind there)…emitting soft warm-amber luminosity.  (I asked “Alexa” for that synonym.  It’s a good one, isn’t it?)  They might catch a glimpse of me getting my coffee maker ready, or rinsing my cat food can for the recycling bin.


Early, early morning, before the sun breaks is a magical time.  I’m glad the crack-of-dawn Mass gets me out of the house, then.  It’s wonderful to be wondering.

Merry Christmas



If I had to choose one word that would define the year of 2016 for me, it would be FAMILY.

Remember, family comes in all shapes and configurations and is not only determined by birth or blood or even marriage. For me, I am related to my family by love.

Year ‘round, I am enveloped by my sisters and brothers, their spouses and our parents in North Carolina, Georgia, and Wisconsin. I couldn’t survive without them, and I hope I give back just a little of what they give to me. Laughter is everything. Presence, in many forms, is everything.

My Australian family hosted me in Sydney. It was an amazing time, swimming as the sun rose over the oceanside pool, walking beaches, visiting vineyards in Tasmania, and shopping in Melbourne. I could live there. And then, Patrick visited me in November. Who knew a busy, funny, adventuresome young man would want to spend time with me?

My Arizona family, and that includes my BFF, welcomed me for a few days, and we picked up, just as family-of-the-heart does…right where we left off. Some things never change, and it’s all good.

My Lake Waccamaw family helped me celebrate my birthday in June, accompanied me to Wisconsin for a whirlwind week, and fed me Thanksgiving dinner. They fed me more than that. They fed my soul.

Last, but not least, I have my neighbors, who have become my family, as well. We have a book club, frequent dinners, snow day movie fests, walking times, talking times, and even some crying times. We look out for one another.

I hope this heartfelt, though maybe not so creative letter finds you well and happy. May each of you be surrounded by the strength and the joy and laughter, and especially the love of FAMILY at all times. May you feel the Peace of Christ. …and so, Amen.

Good Neighbors…


It doesn’t take a Mensa member to figure out that we all ended up here in this neighborhood at this time in our lives for a reason and not by accident.  I am talking about my neighbors.  There are seven of us single women of a certain age who live within three tenths of a mile of each other.  Seriously.

Two years ago, the common denominator, asked us all to dinner at her house.  There, we found each other mutually fascinating, and vowed we would “be there for each other.”  Not that it matters, but if I remember correctly, a few bottles of wine were involved.  Since then, we have had monthly dinners, formed a book club, and have gone to movies, shopped together, walked, yoga-ed, and just plain become friends.

It snowed last night.  The city shut down.  So, today, it was no surprise to me, but certainly a delight, when one rousted several of us to the Y for yoga, and another hosted a Snow Day Movie Fest.

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It went like this with a text:  “Do you want to go to yoga?  I will drive and pick up everyone.”   Four of us went and became the only students in the whole class since no one else showed up on this snowy morning.

Another sent out this email:  “Come to a Snow Day Movie Fest.  I chose several DVDs from the Red Box.  Bring snacks, and we will watch some movies. Arrive between 2 and 2:15. Movie starts at 2:30.”  All seven of us showed up with blankets, pillows, house slippers, and any snacks we could scrape up from our kitchens.  At the end of the first movie, two of us (and I was one) went home for wine, and returned for the second show.

These women are pretty amazing.  They are smart, talented, articulate, and beautiful.  Among us, we are teachers, an art curator, an actress, a landscaper, and social activists.  We are readers, singers, students, and basic all ’round do-ers.

Robert Frost wrote that “good fences make good neighbors.”  I don’t know about fences, but I do know that good neighbors make pretty special friends.

What Puts the “Jungle” in Jungle Gym…


I live in the tiniest house on my block of four homes. Next door to me, on the north side, is the biggest house, with a family of nine kids, and a double lot for a yard. I love the view of the next door open yard. It is very often full of children playing some type of ball. When it is too dark to see them, I can still hear the kids’ play-talk and laughter when my windows are open.

This family has a huge play structure in the lower end of their grassy field. The kids are growing, and usually, only the youngest little boys play on the structure, which is complete with swings, slide, a climbing platform, and monkey bars.

One morning quite recently, I was out early walking my little Hattie-dog. She is very alert, and notices every movement around. Usually, she wants to chase birds or bunnies, but most often her target is a squirrel. As we approached the yard next door, Hattie began straining, in her very well-trained way, at the leash, and I looked to the right.

Playing Follow-the-Leader, across the top of the monkey bars on the play structure, were two squirrels. Hattie and I stopped and watched. It was a living cartoon. The squirrels leaped from bar to bar, balanced on the side rails, and ran across the platform. I would not have been surprised if they had gone down the slide and leaped onto the swings for a little back-and-forth, but they didn’t.

It’s delightful to find wonder in the mundane. Not much is really mundane for me, though, because each second of my life is a joy and a gift. It is also a learning experience. Now I know why Jungle Gym is such a perfect name for a play structure.